Girl Scouts Sail to the Arctic with Greenpeace

This week, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) announced a new partnership with Greenpeace International, as part of the latter organization’s Save the Arctic campaign. Two young women, Yvette Sena Blankson of Ghana and Miryam Justo of Peru, have set sail on a ship headed for the Arctic Ocean to study the northerly environment and the effects of climate change. The journey will raise awareness about the fragility of the icy Arctic environment and about the impact that climate change and shipping have had on the environment.

WAGGGS is the international umbrella group that is composed of member organizations in 145 countries, all of which are Girl Scouting and Girl Guiding groups for girls and young women. The organization has ten million members worldwide and three million in the United States. It formed its partnership with Greenpeace with the belief that girls and young women should be integral parts of the solution to environmental issues such as climate change. It believes that educating girls and young women about environmental issues will produce greater results in global policies and change at local, national, and global levels, as women as a whole are more affected by climate change than any other group of people in the world, especially in developing nations.

Blankson, a Ghanaian Girl Guide, and Justo, a Peruvian Girl Scout, will spend a week aboard the Greenpeace icebreaker ship and will be accompanied by Greenpeace activists, scientist Dr. John Fletcher, and Chinese pop star Hu Haiquan, as well as filmmakers, celebrities, and scientists from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. The ship, named the Arctic Sunrise, greeted the two women in Svalbard, Norway, an archipelago located between the North Pole and mainland Norway. The Girl Scouts will spend a week in the Arctic, recording their experiences on film, in blog posts, and on Twitter. WAGGGS says that the girls will share their “ideas and opinions on why we need to protect the Arctic and why young people need to be at the heart of the policies and decision-making that affect the environment.”

A WAGGGS statement defines the expedition’s purpose as “to claim the Arctic for everybody, for future generations and for no individual nation states, and to show that the future of the Arctic matters to everybody around the world.” In October, WAGGGS and Greenpeace will host a contest to encourage youth to submit designs for a global “Flag for the Future” to show that the Arctic belongs to all people of Earth.

Greenpeace launched its Save the Arctic campaign this month to highlight the plight of the Arctic region as it faces human-induced threats. More than 75 percent of Arctic ice has melted in the past 30 years, and the polar ice cap has shrunk dramatically. The region’s wildlife, including polar bears, narwhals, and walruses, depend on the sea ice; if the ice keeps melting rapidly, these animals will have nowhere to go.

Additional threats to the survival of the Arctic sea ice include oil drilling and the fishing industry. Oil giants such as Exxon, Shell, and BP want to start drilling for oil in the Arctic, which would put the region at risk of a spill. To drill for oil, companies have to melt ice and move icebergs, effectively destroying the sea ice to get to a global supply of three years’ worth of oil. Arctic wildlife could be threatened and further endangered if industrial fisheries gain access to the area; this would lead to unsustainable fishing practices and depletion of animal populations.

To join Greenpeace’s Save the Arctic campaign, visit savethearctic.org and sign petitions to establish an Arctic sanctuary and to drive oil rigs and unsustainable fisheries out of the region.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/87913776@N00/404037340

Lights in Kenya Bring Hopes of Brighter Future

In Nairobi, Kenya, solar-powered floodlights have been installed at a local football stadium to allow youngsters to play into the night, keeping them out of trouble.

Located in one of Kenya’s toughest slums, the Mathare Football for Hope Center is run by the Mathare Youth Sports Association, which promotes sports with leadership training, environmental clean-ups, the prevention of aids, and many other causes.  

The lights, donated by Yingli Green Energy, a Chinese energy company, allow the center to operate for an additional three hours into the night.  

The Mathare Youth Sports Association was selected by the FIFA “20 Centers for 2010” program, which selected 20 African groups to host a “Football for Hope Center” in a disadvantaged community to promote education, public health, and football.  

The goal of the Mathare Association was to help a community that struggles with unemployment, illiteracy, crime, and HIV/AIDS.  Besides football, the center also exists as a social hub for younger people, offering access to to libraries and computers, as well as workshops to learn life skills.  They also provide the only voluntary counseling and testing center for HIV in the area.  

“The center has given community members an opportunity to get counseling and also at the same time to get to know their status on HIV,” explained Stephen Muchoki, manager of the Mathare Football for Hope Center.  

Robert Chege, a local 21-year-old footballer also remarked that “Being around the center is cool and fun because it’s a learning place as well as a sporting environment.”

The association has already benefited about 20,000 young people since 1987, with FIFA expecting around 50,000 to use the Mathare Football for Hope Center this year.

Photo Credit: farm3.static.flickr.com/2481/3587719538_ddb7a08bd6.jpg user ensign_beedrill

World Wildlife Fund Celebrates 50th Birthday

The World Wildlife Fund, a conservation organization devoted to protecting nature while promoting environmentally-friendly habits, turned 50 on April 29th. The group was founded to raise awareness of environmental issues and to raise funds to preserve wildlife. The organization strives to preserve the Earth’s wildlife by “protecting natural areas and wild populations of plants and animals…promoting sustainable approaches to the use of renewable natural resources, and promoting more efficient use of resources and energy and the maximum reduction of pollution.”

The organization was founded in 1961 by a group of sixteen scientists and naturalists lead by biologist Sir John Huxley. Huxley was inspired to bring attention to conservation efforts when he witnessed habitat destruction and the hunting of endangered species during a trip to Africa. The WWF’s call to action stated that while “the expertise to protect the environment existed, the financial support to achieve this protection did not.” The WWF was then founded to provide fundraising in order to raise financial support for the conservation movement. Less than five months after the group was founded, the first WWF office opened at the IUCN headquarters in Morges, Switzerland on September 11, 1961. Within three years of the group’s inception, $1.9 million was raised and donated to various environmental conservation causes.

Today, the World Wildlife Fund works in over 100 countries and boasts almost 5 million members around the world. In the fifty years since it was founded, the WWF has been an active part of wildlife conservation around the world. Among the WWF’s achievements:

-Establishing the Marine Stewardship Council in 1997, a non-profit organization that designates sustainable fisheries. The MSC also helps consumers choose which fish to consume/avoid based on the sustainability of the population.

-Organizing Earth Hour starting in 2007, a global event that raises awareness about global warming by encouraging people to turn off lights and appliances for one hour.

-Raising over $1 million to fight against rhino poaching starting in 1979. The rhino population in India, Nepal, and southern Africa are slowly being replenished due to the decrease in poaching.

-Conceiving the idea of debt-for-nature swaps in 1984, which are government transactions that forgive part of a developing country’s foreign debt if they invest in conservation efforts.

-Developed Project Tiger in 1973, which set aside land for nine tiger reserves in India. Later, six more reserves were created, in addition to three in Nepal and one in Bangladesh.

-Published the World Conservation Strategy in 1980, which outline the three main goals of conservation: maintenance of ecological processes, preservation of diversity, and sustainable use of ecosystems and the species that inhabit them.

-Raising money for the Tropical Rainforest Campaign starting in 1975. The group also arranged for areas of rainforest in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to be preserved as national parks or reserves.

Currently, the WWF is focused on restoring 36 species of animal populations, preserving 35 ecosystems worldwide, and reducing the human carbon footprint in six areas around the world. To learn more about the World Wildlife Fund and find ways to get involved, visit the group’s Conservation Action Network website.

Photo Credit: hollister.ca.gov